Saintly Thoughts

Dialectical Christianity

[In keeping with the theme of last week, and in honor of the Holy portion of the liturgical year only recently left behind, the author continues his/her musings concerning topics which are specifically theological and historical (and thus sectarian) as against more generally philosophical topics.  Read at your own risk.]

Isn't it interesting that in our age the Christian Church (or, if you prefer “a” Christian Church) has become so closely tied to ideas of familial life and societal stability (or, at least, this is the way which it insists upon seeing itself)?  In the early days of the Church, this was not so.  The Church often stood against family life, for it sought to separate children from the religious beliefs of their parents and taught them that regenerative sex was not a glue holding society together but a curse of the fall (granted, the view that sex itself was fallen is now considered heretical by most sects; but what is settled doctrine in our own age was not always so).  It destroyed what wealth the family might have accumulated over hard ages by urging its adherents to sell all they had and to give it to the poor.  It taught denunciation and disorder; a strict asceticism tied to the strictest vision of societal utopianism, where there was no distinction between slave and freedman.  We, in our wisdom, have chosen to stand astride these two traditions, pagan and Christian, combining the moral purity and other-worldliness of the Cross with the stability of structurally pagan family life (for the family will always be fundamentally pagan).  Of course, if human society is to perpetuate itself, Christianity cannot be practiced as it was by the ancients, and undoubtedly the holy forefathers (and mothers) may have been a bit too overzealous in an age when the revelation had yet to be fully realized and systematized; made practical and pedestrian.  Still, it is striking how closely aspects of the more zealous message of those ancient saints track with supposed “new” ideas of revolution and societal upheaval.  Some even claim Christianity, far from its later self-appointed role as the caretaker of family and tradition--both pagan and Christian, was the last straw that broke the back of a deteriorating Roman world (for good or ill).  But which way is truly good and which is truly evil—the structural, conservative, and familial or the revolutionary, disruptive, and pure?  Or is this the wrong question and both paths are equally valid so long as they are attached to the “correct” set of societal/religious symbols?  Or are neither paths in and of themselves good or evil and simply represent the mirror images of a dialectically linked polestar (and thus, one is left to "guess" as to which course is correct at any given point in time)? 

It is clear to me now that the world will continue to spin on its axis, and the iniquity of men and women and children will continue to ebb and flow as their circumstances allow.  We are equally guilty if, in our moral virtue, we attempt to create a better world and create instead a hell upon earth, or if in our cynicism concerning the intractability of our imperfection we give ourselves over to a placid nihilism.  And neither will our end result be assured if only we are pure enough in our intentions and beliefs--whatsoever might be our guiding first principle (or symbol).  Logic, taken to either extreme, becomes a force of evil.   And yet the logic of these systems demand our absolute allegiance (as against human love and human freedom), forcing us either one way or the other, whether we wish it or not (whether we are aware of her awesome force, or not).  Thus, we must cast off the pure logical system and apply our vigor and obstinacy against the temptation to veer either to the right or to the left, to apply ourselves vigorously to the course of the good (or "these goods"), even when such a course is unclear to us.  

When Christianity becomes another system of the world, either a tool of the earnest revolutionary or of the staid traditionalist, it becomes indistinguishable from the world's systems [I speak here in the language of story and metaphor more than I do of fact].  Is there not a third way, meeting at that mystical intersection between the logic of the mind, the experience of the heart, and the historic knowingness of the body, that encounters a conduit to God and true wisdom?  Not that we can present it as such (we, or they, speak of Christ Jesus, but what do we—or they—know of Him in Himself?), and in speaking in this way, we run the risk of soothing the mind with clever platitudes which mean nothing and lead us nowhere (this is the critique leveled upon the religious believer by the scientific mind and upon the scientific mind by the nihilist).  But we can see that neither the left nor the right path leads anywhere new, only to those paths that humankind has trod and will trod so long as this line remains!  How can we encounter that which we cannot speak of, and experience that which transcends our experience?  This is the language of the true Church (if any such Church there may be).  But we cannot know the true Church as the true Church, and once we have entered in it is too late to tell.  How to maintain the middle path, the path of energetic love midst these puzzles of the mind and heart? 

[Who can unravel the meaning of the riddles the author has laid out in the midst of this posting?]